CARE PROCEEDINGS/JURISDICTION: Bridgend County Borough Council v W and Another  EWHC 3118 (Fam)
(Family Division, Moor J, 3 October 2012)
The mother had an extensive history of mental health difficulties and one of her children had already been removed from her care. When the mother formed a new relationship and became pregnant the local authority became involved due to the family history and also because the parents' relationship was alleged to be volatile and aggressive. The mother was sectioned twice during the pregnancy, the parents failed to co-operate with the local authority and the mother misused drugs throughout the pregnancy. The father was also convicted of threatening to kill the social worker.
When the parents were informed that the baby would be removed from their care at birth they fled the country and travelled to Spain. The baby was born in Spain and the parents discharged her from hospital despite her needing treatment for sepsis. The Spanish authorities obtained an order to return the baby to hospital. The parents agreed a plan of intervention where they would permit the authorities into their home.
The local authority in the UK, with the assistance of the Spanish authorities located the child and she was returned to the jurisdiction and placed in short-term foster care. The question now arose whether the English court had jurisdiction to decide on the child's future care.
The mother failed to establish the child's habitual residence in Spain. The parents did not make a considered decision to relocate to Spain, they simply fled the country on hearing of the local authority intentions. The child had never stepped foot in the UK. The child's habitual residence followed that of the mother. However, since her removal by the authorities the child had been present in the UK and, therefore, the English court had jurisdiction. It was not in the best interests of the child to return her to Spain. If she were removed from local authority care she would be at significant risk of harm and so the court made an injunction preventing her removal from the jurisdiction.
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